“You'll never be bored if you ask yourself, what is this? Like curious, like curious, like Curious George.”
With my camera poised, ready to capture the memory of my son’s first solo ride at the boardwalk’s arcade, I willed him to look at me. Gazing through the square view finder, my eye twitched awaiting the joy I had anticipated.
Frustrated, I finally resorted to repeatedly depressing the button in the hopes that one shot would be album worthy. Well, I got my photo of that moment but there was no smile. Or even a clear shot of my son’s face. The reason? His head was turned inward toward the pulleys and mechanisms that propelled the ten fire engine cars in a circle for three minutes. He was clearly pondering the innerworkings of it all.
Curiosity killed the photo opp.
And I was not disappointed one bit. That picture has become a literal snap shot of who my kids are as they have grown into young adults. Searching for the “why” or “how” of a situation is an important part of their everyday life.
I think every mother has lamented the “Why” phase of parenting. It is a time-consuming, brain crushing exercise in explanations and logic that largely goes unabsorbed. There are a few questions from my boys’ younger days that still stand out for me years later.
“Why don’t more people feel sorry for the thumb, out there all alone on your hand, separated from the other fingers?”
“Isn’t it weird that the people in China see the same clouds we do?” (Actually, China and England held an abnormal fascination for my young boys, which still confounds me.)
“The moon has a face, the sun got robbed. How does the sun get a face?”
However, if you can embrace this phase, it lays the foundation for seeking answers and forming an educated opinion. I always considered it an investment in my kids’ development, albeit it a sometimes frustrating one.
That’s because children have a way of making you second-guess what you were so sure of five minutes ago. And what a gift that is! Their curiosity forced me to ponder and verbalize an explanation for everything from the simple to the complex.
I found that the answers to the questions don’t matter as much as the embracing of the curiosity. I didn’t need to be right, I just needed to explore with them and be open minded.
Now that those toddlers are young men, the questions are deeper and the answers more vexing. In addition to politics, job opportunities and relationships, we have had many recent inquiries and interest in fact-finding around the Coronavirus.
I can’t imagine navigating a lockdown and all the changes we’ve encountered in the last six months without the ability to seek answers and make informed decisions. All those hours in the car, ruminating over life’s little curiosities, seems to have finally paid off.
It turns out that on the ride of life, you can enjoy it even more if you look beyond the surface in search of opportunities to grow and learn. Encouraging that thirst for knowledge is the best gift we give our children and ultimately to ourselves.